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Wisdom of Kerry's Moderate Course; Interview With Commerce Secretary Don Evans; Kerry's ad Campaign: Smart Buy?

Aired May 27, 2004 - 15:30   ET


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a powerful yearning around the world for an America that listens and leads again.

ANNOUNCER: The world according to Kerry. But is he listening to fellow Democrats who are irate about Iraq?

The trial balloon is busted. Now that Kerry will accept the nomination in Boston, is there any way to counter Bush's cash advantage?

The economy according to Bush. Is the president's team overly upbeat at a time when Americans are being pinched at the pump?



JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

John Kerry today launched an 11-day mission to show that he has the right stuff to be a wartime commander in chief. And he did it with broad brushstrokes rather than with guns blazing. During his remarks in Seattle, Kerry promised anew that, as president, he would build international alliances, update the military and dependence on Mideast oil, and use diplomacy to keep the country safe. A relatively small part of the speech was devoted to the subject Kerry acknowledged is on the minds of many Americans, Iraq.


KERRY: In the coming weeks, President Bush will travel to Europe and meet with members of the G-8 here in the United States. There will be speeches, handshakes, ceremonies, but will our allies promise to send troops to Iraq? Will they dedicate substantially more funding for reconstruction there? Will they pledge a real effort to aid in the transformation of the Middle East? Will they, in fact, become part of the stakes that are at large for all of us?

That is what we need. But the day is late and the situation in Iraq is grim.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Some members of Kerry's own political party would prefer to hear tougher talk about Iraq from their candidate. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, considers the wisdom of Kerry's moderate course.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Democrats are frustrated. They see President Bush's poll numbers sinking, they believe Iraq has become a quagmire, and they are in a rage. Nearly eight in 10 Democrats believe it was not going to war in Iraq. Over 60 percent of Democrats want to start withdrawing U.S. troops. But what does their candidate say?

KERRY: But we do not have the choice just to pick up and leave and leave behind a failed state, a new haven for terrorists.

SCHNEIDER: But why can't John Kerry sound more like this?

AL GORE, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Rumsfeld ought to resign immediately as the chief architect of this plan.


SCHNEIDER: There's a reason. Kerry doesn't need to rally the democratic base. George Bush is already doing that. And if the Democrats really wanted a candidate who would do that, they would have nominated Howard Dean.

Kerry doesn't need to establish his credentials as an anti-war critic. He needs to establish his credentials as a leader who will keep the country safe from terrorists.

KERRY: As commander in chief, I will bring the full force of our nation's power to bear on finding and crushing your networks. We'll use every resource of our power to destroy you.

SCHNEIDER: Kerry agrees with his party, Bush's Iraq policy is failing. But he insists failure is not an option.

KERRY: Failure there would be a boon to our enemies.

SCHNEIDER: But do Democrats really want to turn Bush's Iraq policy into a success? The risk for Kerry is that angry Democrats will turn to a real anti-war candidate.

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Plunging our nation into war on what is now a very well documented platform of fabrications, deceptions and prevarications, to me, rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor and warrants impeachment proceedings.

SCHNEIDER: As Howard Dean might say.


SCHNEIDER: But Dean's not saying that. He's supporting Kerry, and Kerry can bring out Dean and Gore and Ted Kennedy to remind those angry Democrats a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. Kerry's approach may work. Here's evidence.

A new CBS News poll shows Kerry running eight points ahead of Bush among registered voters. Put John McCain, a pro-war Republican, on the ticket with Kerry, and look what happens. A Kerry-McCain ticket beats a Bush-Cheney ticket by 14 points.


SCHNEIDER: Wouldn't that drive liberals crazy? Nope. With McCain on the ticket, Kerry loses no support at all among liberals. May even gain -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

And now we turn to another important campaign issue, the economy. Revised government figures show the Gross Domestic Product grew a bit more quickly in the first quarter than first estimated. The Bush camp seized on that as evidence that the president's economic policies are working, despite Democrats' ongoing complaints about job losses and soaring gas prices.

Let's turn now to one of the president's top economic point men. He is Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

Secretary Evans, good to see you again. Thanks very much.

DON EVANS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Thank you, Judy. Always great to be with you.

WOODRUFF: So you've got these good numbers on the economy growing, but yesterday you had numbers about the sales of new homes down, you had numbers about durable good orders down. How do you know which numbers to pay attention to?

EVANS: Well, there really is a continuation of many, many good numbers about the economy. And you probably know, Judy, that tomorrow is the one-year anniversary for the jobs and growth bill that the president signed into law. And the results are in.

WOODRUFF: I had it marked on my calendar.

EVANS: I know you did. I know you did. And as you said, the GDP growth in the first quarter this year was up a little bit higher than previously indicated. But for the last 12 months, the economy has been growing at five percent, which is the fastest growth in over 20 years.

We're employing a record number of American workers today. And unemployment has been drifting down. It moved from 6.3 percent down to 5.6 percent. In your good home state of North Carolina, it's moved from 6.6 percent down to 5.3 percent.

We've created some 1.1 million jobs in the last eight months. And so there just continues to be a tremendous amount of very positive, optimistic news about the economy.

WOODRUFF: So when you get these numbers, as you did yesterday, again, on durable good orders down and on new homes, and then you have some consumer confidence surveys showing some uncertainty there, do you just assume all that's temporary, or what?

EVANS: Judy, actually, the durable goods number that came in yesterday was a very positive number. The reason it looked negative is because it compares it with the previous month of March, which was an incredibly powerful month. It was up 5.7 percent in the month of March. And so it just shows that from the month of March it was down slightly. But still, overall, it shows that the second quarter is growing.

So the durable goods numbers actually continues to look positive. You mentioned home sales. Home sales, in fact, they were down a little bit. But still, they continue to be at a record level. Over three million people now own a home that didn't own three years ago. We have record home sales in this country right now.

WOODRUFF: Let me bring up another aspect of the economy.

EVANS: Sure.

WOODRUFF: Of course, gas prices going up pretty fast clip (ph).

EVANS: Sure.

WOODRUFF: You've expressed concern about this. There's a new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll showing almost six in 10 people saying that it's going to cause financial hardship, these rising prices. What can the president do about it?

EVANS: Well, the president did lay out an energy plan to the American people when he showed up in the spring of 2001, and he called on Congress to act. Unfortunately, Congress has not acted yet. There was an energy bill passed in the House. It got obstructed in the Senate.

So Congress has yet to deliver the president an energy bill. But energy and the development, supply of it, as well as the conservation, it's a long lead time of industry. And that's what the president saw three years ago. It is time for us to begin to act so that the American people do have available and affordable energy.

WOODRUFF: In connection with that, let me ask you about the new Kerry campaign ad. I believe this is only an Internet ad, but it talks about the administration's ties to some of the companies -- the countries' biggest oil companies. It says that you worked for 25 years for an oil company and then landed in the administration. The point they're trying to make is that's the reason the Bush administration is conflicted and not really committed to bringing down the price of gasoline.

EVANS: Well, I'm totally committed to it. I know how important it is to growing our economy. Listen, Judy, there is not anything more important than creating the environment for jobs in America.

And the way you create jobs in America -- one of the ways -- is make sure you have affordable and available energy. And so this president, this administration is totally committed to making sure that we have the kind of policies in place that will deliver to the American people, as well as American businesses, affordable and available energy. If we would have -- if the previous administration had not vetoed the ability to go drill in ANWAR, we would be moving toward the delivery.


WOODRUFF: Coming up, the impact of those ads in the showdown states and what $25 million in TV time can do for a candidate's poll numbers.


WOODRUFF: At the beginning of May, John Kerry's campaign bought $25 million in TV ad time in the nation's 18 showdown states, plus Louisiana and Colorado. The ad blitz was designed to introduce Kerry to the American people in a positive way. And it appears to be working.

According to the national Annenberg Election Survey, Kerry's favorable rating in those 20 states in late April was 36 percent. But by last weekend, he was viewed favorably by 44 percent of those polled. By comparison, back in late April, President Bush's favorable rating was 48 percent in the showdown states. His favorable and his unfavorable ratings now are even, at 44 percent.

With me now to talk more about all of this is Adam Clymer. He's the political director of the Annenberg Election Survey.

Adam Clymer, how do you know there's a connection between these ads and these favorability ratings?

ADAM CLYMER, ANNENBERG ELECTION SURVEY: Well, you can't be absolutely certain. But, in particular, Kerry's numbers didn't change nationally, but they changed in those states where he was buying time. Nationally, his percentages are within the margin of error from one point to the other, but they made a lot of difference there.

And that seemed to be -- it's also borne out, Judy, by the fact that in a lot of characteristics that we ask people about, he's now doing better than Bush. He seems less reckless, more somebody who cares about people. He's got advantages in those areas. And I think the descriptions of his experience in the ads work. But probably the most striking thing is he ranks even in those states with Bush on the question of who has the right kind of experience to be president.

Now, ordinarily, an incumbent president is way ahead on that question. That's one of his big advantages.

WOODRUFF: Can you match specific words in ads with characteristics that you asked voters about? I mean, is it that precise or not?

CLYMER: No, I don't think so. I mean, we've tested some of the things that are part of the message that the Bush people used fairly effectively in late March and April. Says one thing and does another, that sort of attack on Kerry. And that had an impact. Well, one of the things that this shows is these ads have an impact when there's a lot of them, but then they can be washed away by another band of advertising.

WOODRUFF: What about the effect of ads versus the effect of what's going on in the news, Iraq, other stories that just dominate the headlines on the television screens?

CLYMER: Well, I think what's going on in the news has a very substantial effect on Bush and on people's opinions about Bush. I mean, we're now getting about a fifth of the public saying Iraq is the most important problem facing the country. That's almost as much as the economy. If you add terrorism and Iraq, it's more than the economy.

I think these work on Bush. But in terms of defining John Kerry and making him look like a good alternative, if you have your doubts about Bush, I think the ads are the more important element at this point.

WOODRUFF: With John Kerry, he hasn't been able to spend as much money on ads, as has President Bush on his own. But when you add in these independent groups, the so-called 527s, that can't coordinate legally with the Kerry campaign, there's a lot of money being spent for John Kerry. Is there any evidence that those independent ads are having an effect or not? You and I were just talking about that.

CLYMER: I'm skeptical, although I can't prove it. Plus, independent ads are largely attacks on Bush. And Bush is being judged by, as you said a moment ago, the news, and also by the fact that people have had three and a half years to decide what they like about him or what they don't like about him.

So I'm not sure that the attack ads are having much impact against Bush. And I think that's why, in fact, the Kerry people shifted first to some biographical ads. They did some attack ads on Bush early. They shifted to bios on Kerry, and they'll be doing ads on Kerry's stands on issues, which are much more upbeat.

WOODRUFF: Maybe something else for the Annenberg Center to study.

CLYMER: Oh, we will be.

WOODRUFF: We'll see. Oh, OK. Well, we'll be talking to you about it then. Adam Clymer, who is the political director for the Annenberg Election Survey.

Great to see you. Adam, thanks a lot.

CLYMER: Nice to be with you, Judy. WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

Well, John Kerry and his wife, Teresa, celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary last night in Seattle. The couple went out to dinner at a restaurant in the city's Queen Anne district. Earlier, they attended a fundraiser where the candidate told the crowd his wife wanted an unusual anniversary gift.


KERRY: I knew I was married for nine years because I asked her, "What would you like for your ninth anniversary?" And she said, "How about 27 electoral votes in Florida?"


WOODRUFF: Last night's reception -- not very romantic, exactly -- but last night's reception raised $2.2 million for Kerry's presidential campaign.

We check in on the two presidential campaigns when we return. The strategy behind John Kerry's focus on national security, and an update on the president's trip to Tennessee.

Plus, two views of the situation in Iraq and the threats to U.S. security. My interviews with former Defense Secretary William Perry and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter.



ANNOUNCER: John Kerry spells out his plans to keep America safe.

KERRY: We must launch and lead a new era of alliances for the post-9/11 world.

ANNOUNCER: Can he do a better job than President Bush when it comes to fighting terrorism? We'll hear two very different views.

After six months, are Californians still crazy about Arnold Schwarzenegger? We'll take a look at some new numbers.

It's the election Americans obsessed over. No, not the presidential election.

KERRY: I know that the tension is high. People are really concerned about who's going to win, Fantasia or Diana.



WOODRUFF: Welcome back. John Kerry's renewed focus on national security was in the works before the Bush administration warned that al Qaeda might be ready to strike the United States again. But the threat helped to punctuate his charge that the current president is not adequately protecting America. Our national correspondent kelly Wallace traveled with Kerry to Seattle.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John Kerry in a speech in Seattle tries to convince Americans his team can keep the U.S. safer than team Bush.

KERRY: They bulled when they should have persuaded. They've gone it alone when they should have assembled a whole team. They've made America less safe than we should be in a dangerous world.

WALLACE: It was a speech long on vision, short on details. Kerry would build stronger alliances, modernize the military and not be afraid to use force when necessary to deal with threats of new al Qaeda attacks.

KERRY: As commander in chief, I will bring the full force of our nation's power to bear on finding and crushing your networks. We'll use every resource of our power to destroy you.

WALLACE: The senator did not offer a new plan for Iraq. Instead, repeating what he has said previously, calling for an internationalization of the coalition, getting NATO troops involved. His strategy, as someone who voted for the Iraqi war resolution, challenge the president on the "L" word.

KERRY: Attracting international support in a situation like Iraq is a clear test of presidential leadership. It is what capable and confident presidents do.

WALLACE: There are signs Kerry may be gaining ground on the Iraq issue. Asked who would do a better job handling Iraq in a recent poll, Mr. Bush led Kerry but by only six points. However, in that same poll, when asked who do you trust more in a crisis, 60 percent chose the president over Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran.

A Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman blasted the senator's speech saying it contradicts his votes in the Senate to slash defense and intelligence funding.

(on camera): The GOP welcomes any comparison on national security, said the spokesman. So too does the Kerry campaign with advisers believing the president is now vulnerable on what has been his greatest strength. The challenge for the senator, though, persuading Americans he would be the stronger leader.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Seattle.


WOODRUFF: In recent days, Republicans and Democrats have been accusing one another of playing politics with national security. Surprise. For the latest from the Bush campaign, we go to CNN's Frank Buckley. He's with the president in Nashville today. Hi, Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Judy. President Bush here at the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital to talk about health care information technology. He's touring today with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Both of them here with the president in Tennessee.

Judy, the president himself did not weigh in on national security or Iraq or Senator Kerry's speech. But his supporters did, Senators John Kyl and George Allen joined Bush/Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman on a conference call. They say the Kerry speech offered nothing new, as you herd Kelly just said. And in their view, it illustrated that Kerry is a flip-flopper.

Senator Allen saying in the conference call, "Senator Kerry didn't offer any new ideas in his speech today. It was just a continuation of what we've heard in the past, a pompous, ponderous, pontification, espousing more prevaricated political pap."

Again, President Bush did not weigh in on that issue, but White House spokesman Scott McClellan did. He said that Senator Kerry himself has some explaining to do on his position on Iraq. Apparently referring to Senator Kerry's vote to authorize force in Iraq but not to authorize monies. He said that, quote, "Kerry is on all sides of every issue."

This evening, the president attends a political reception here, a fund raiser for his reelection campaign, Judy. This, of course, a state that President Bush won, beating the native son here, Al Gore in 2000 -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Frank, any sense of why the president himself isn't going to be mentioning national security today?

BUCKLEY: Today, apparently, he's leaving it to his supporters to do it. He was trying to stay on message today, talking about health care.

This was the second of two events this week in which the president is emphasizing these domestic priorities as they try to refocus some of the voters away from Iraq and some of the issues there and on to some of the domestic priorities of the president.

WOODRUFF: In fact, John Kerry himself has been talking about domestic issues earlier this week. So the two of them have to do that every once in awhile. Frank Buckley, thank you so much.

Just a short while ago, I spoke with a former Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry who is now an informal adviser to the Kerry campaign. I began by asking him what more President Bush can do about the situation in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM PERRY, FRM. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The president has to go from rhetoric and from plans to action. Take the NATO, for example. The Europeans have a profound interest in the stabilization of Iraq today. They should care about that as much as we. And therefore, NATO should be there helping with the reconstruction, providing the security there.

So with the leadership on the part of the president and with the willingness to accommodate, willingness to respect allies' views, that should have already been done and still could be done. It's one thing to say you want allies. It's another thing to be willing to work to get those allies.

I think Winston Churchill said it best during the second World War when he said that the problem with allies is that they sometimes have ideas of their own. That's certainly the problem with our allies. And the problem with the Bush administration is they've not been willing to recognize those ideas and deal with them.

WOODRUFF: Secretary Perry, why do you think John Kerry would be able to achieve a better outcome in Iraq?

PERRY: He would respect our allies. He would listen to their views and try to accommodate those views. And that should have been done from the beginning. It's very difficult to do it at this late date. It should have been done from the beginning.

It still can be done if the president when he goes to NATO will take the leadership and be willing to admit that we have made some mistakes in Iraq and try to bring in the Europeans, even at this late date.

WOODRUFF: The most recent polls show almost half of Americans now want all or some of the U.S. troops to come home. With U.S. support for those troops dropping, what does that say about the overall mission of the United States in Iraq?

PERRY: Well, I think the important point here is that the terrorist threat is real and it will only be magnified if we fail in Iraq. It's important, very important for our national security not to fail in Iraq.

And the key to not failing, the key to making it a success on the reconstruction and the political efforts we have in there today is to attain some security and stability in the country. That will require at least the number of troops we have now. We have put in too few to begin with, which is part of the reason we're having the problem today.

So bringing troops home at this point would be a step in the wrong direction. We need to augment those troops with European troops and that's why we need NATO involved.

WOODRUFF: The president said his goal is a free and democratic Iraq. Is that the right goal? PERRY: We may have set too ambitious a goal in Iraq. What we want in Iraq as a minimum is a secure and stable Iraq which is not threatening its neighbors. And we would hope to have a representative government in Iraq, as well.

WOODRUFF: But again, if Americans are -- if the support among Americans for a U.S. presence there, for any goal, is sliding, doesn't that jeopardize the mission itself in the long run?

PERRY: I think the mismanagement of this operation from the begin beginning has put us in the position we're in today and that has jeopardized the operation.

But I say the same thing that Senator Kerry has said. That failure in Iraq would ultimately be a serious threat for American security. And we should take every reasonable step we can to achieve success in this mission.


WOODRUFF: Former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, now advising the Kerry camp.

Coming up next, we hear from an influential Republican on national security issues. I'll talk with House armed services committee chairman Duncan Hunter. Also ahead, from boxing to the political arena, find out what Don King is promoting now. And we'll share the latest reviews on Arnold Schwarzenegger's performance as governor.


WOODRUFF: National security and the war in Iraq are turning up more frequently on the political landscape. We heard just a moment ago from former Clinton defense secretary William Perry. Joining us from San Diego, California, is Republican House armed services committee chairman Duncan Hunter.

Congressman Hunter, first of all, Bill Perry was first, more than anything else, stressing that a leader, a president who is a leader gets allies involved. Gets them on board, and listens to them when appropriate. It's something he says President Bush has not done.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, Bill Perry should look at the 30 coalition partners who are with us in Iraq. He said we have to bring Europe on board. We have obviously the Brits. We have the Italians and we had the Spanish until they got bombed. They were in there very solidly. We're fighting a war against terrorism, but we have -- we have lots of allies.

One thing the American people need to know is if you're looking to get France and Germany and others involved, a division of soldiers costs about $5 billion a year to maintain. And asking these countries to come in isn't something they're going to do because they like our personalities. They'll only do it if they think they have a national interest. Now, they have some national interests they believe in Afghanistan. They have fairly small contingents there but even the Democrat administrations like Bill Clinton's administration, when we fought in Bosnia, we ended up with the Americans pulling the biggest share of the load. We paid for all the air-to-air refueling, all the majority of the air operations that were extremely expensive. So getting these guys to come in, the French and Germans and others is very difficult because they don't like to spend money.

WOODRUFF: Are you saying that what John Kerry and his advisers are saying is not realistic?

HUNTER: Well, it's not -- first, it's not accurate if you say there's nobody else in Iraq except the Americans. There are 30 coalition partners involved. They have between them roughly 18,000 troops in Iraq. You have the Aussies, you have the Brits, you have the Poles and on down the line in descending order. The second thing I'm saying is it's always difficult even when you're fighting a war in Europe's backyard, which was the Bosnia operation.

In the Bosnia operation, they couldn't say it was the Warsaw pac and something the Americans had to do. It was their war and yet, we ended up spending most of the money, providing the big-ticket items like the air power, the air-to-air refueling, all the stuff that costs lots of money simply because our allies don't like to spend money. So it's one thing for Bill Perry to say we'd like to be able to see that. He wasn't able to do it on his watch. It's a tough thing to do.

WOODRUFF: We know that John Kerry is agreeing with the president that those troops should stay and get the job done. But let me ask you about something else John Kerry said today. He said that this president has made America less safe by his international policies than we should be.

HUNTER: I disagree with that totally. This president went after the bad guys aggressively. He killed them. His troops killed these guys at 10,000 feet in the mountains of Afghanistan where they thought we'd never reach them at close range with rifle fire. We got them in caves. We sought out and aggressively went after terrorists around the world and Iraq is a central part in this war against terrorism.

If we succeed in Iraq, we will have fundamentally neutralized three platforms for potential terrorism in the future -- Afghanistan which is going fairly Well, Libya which, once they watched Saddam Hussein come out of a spider hole, decided -- Gadhafi decided he didn't want to be in that position. They are now turning over their nuclear weapons program. So if we neutralize Libya and we neutralize Iraq and we neutralize Afghanistan, this president will have done things that will accrue to the benefit of many generations to come. So the president has gone aggressively after the terrorists. The Democrats say, we would have done it differently. My question is how would you have done it differently?

WOODRUFF: Very quickly. What do you say to those critics who -- people who have been on board with the president but are saying he needs to be candid with Americans what's going wrong in Iraq. HUNTER: Well, very simply, we're turning this government over on June 30 and within a few days, Mr. Brahimi of the U.N. with consultation from the U.S. will have actually chosen a lot of these cabinet ministers and we will be turning over the government of Iraq in about 30 days now. So this is a tough, hard job, but it's moving slowly and the message to America should be, stay steady.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to have to leave it there, the chairman of the house armed services committee, Duncan Hunter. It's always good to see.

HUNTER: Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Well, as every fight fan knows, no one sells a showdown like Don King. The boxing promoter who's never at a loss for words makes another appearance to promote the president. Campaign news daily straight ahead.


WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our campaign news daily, two new polls offer snapshots of the presidential race in two showdown states. In Pennsylvania, a Quinnipiac survey finds John Kerry has a three-point edge over President Bush, 44 percent to 41 percent. In April, Bush had a six-point lead over Kerry in Pennsylvania. Kerry also holds the lead in a Research 2000 poll of Iowa voters. In this survey, Kerry has 48 percent, Bush 43 percent.

Boxing promoter Don king continues his high-profile support for the president's reelection. King and other African American business leaders are joining RNC chairman Ed Gillespie today in Detroit. The motor city is the first stop on a multi city tour to promote the president's economic policies to African Americans.

If the campaigns are looking to ignite the electorate, they may want to take some tips from a certain hit TV talent contest. We'll have our own spin on American idol mania, ahead.


WOODRUFF: You've heard about pork politics. Well, South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford carried two piglets under his arms into the state House chamber today. He was protesting fast action by lawmakers who blocked his attempts to rid the budget of pork. The speaker of the Republican-controlled house called the move by the Republican governor embarrassing.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to give the governor equal time on that. Two new polls show Californians still are crazy about their new governor but they're also still concerned about the state's financial problems. Arnold Schwarzenegger's job approval rating was 65 percent in one poll and 69 percent in the other. Near record highs for any governor in the past quarter century, but 73 percent of California voters say the state's budget crunch is still a very big problem. And finally, the vote everybody is talking about. Well, almost everybody. If you haven't heard by now and given all the hype, it seems unlikely, Fantasia Barrino beat out Diana Degarmo last night to become the new American idol. Hours before the winner was announced, John Kerry was offering a nod at the singing competition or was it more of a jab?


JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that the tension is high. People are really concerned about who's going to win. Fantasia or Diana. I'm just joking. Half of you don't even know. That's a good sign, actually. I'm encouraged. That's very encouraging. You are smart out here in the state of Washington.


WOODRUFF: Hmm. All right. Well, John Kerry may not want to sound dismissive of the "Idol" phenomenon. We've learned that 65 million votes were cast for the two finalists. People could vote as many times as they wanted by phone and text messaging. So technically it was nothing like, say, a presidential primary but we couldn't help but make this comparison anyway. About 13 million votes were cast in this year's Democratic primaries, one-fifth of the total vote in the "Idol" contest. Ouch.

That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. Just a word, tomorrow on the eve of the unveiling of the World War II memorial, INSIDE POLITICS will be live from the National Mall at the Memorial. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks again for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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